July 19, 2017

In Memoriam: John Avildsen


John Avildsen
December 21, 1923 – June 16, 2017
Chesapeake Film Festival Life-Time Achievement Award Winner, 2016

 

A statement by CFF Board Member George P. Pogatsia:

When I look back on the following chain of events and John Avildsen’s impact on my life, it’s almost eerie.

My parents took me to see my first film on the big screen as a young tyke. That film was Rocky. I remember coming home full of energy, couldn’t sleep, the theme song playing over and over in my head. Rocky still has the same effect on me today. Rocky is my favorite film.

Fast forward to adulthood, my first acting class. What scene does my acting teacher choose for me? Rocky and Adrian’s walk home from their first date.

When I received a call from John Avildsen out of the blue telling me he had just seen my film Family On Board I was overwhelmed by his graciousness regarding my film and my performance. Tears started to flow. I really felt like things were coming full circle. As I began to write the feature, it was clear to me who had to direct it. As fortune would have it, John and I were on the same page.

Developing the Family On Board feature with John was not only a highlight in my career, but in my life.

When John invited my son and I to see Rocky on the big screen in Brooklyn, I felt like I was watching it for the first time again. Rocky was more than just a character on the screen. Rocky was someone I’d grown up with and my children had grown up with. John taught me to take that same approach in my work, as if I’m introducing the audience to someone new. He knew which nuances were important in each character to make them vulnerable, relatable and likeable and he always fought to keep them.

It brought me much joy when the board agreed to follow through on my idea to honor John last year. I know he appreciated it and enjoyed his time in beautiful Easton, Maryland. For that I’m forever grateful.

George Pogatsia